Inside Media: The Press, FBI and the White House

June 28, 2008

Guest: Daniel Schorr

Daniel Schorr was known for his assertiveness during his long career reporting for CBS News. His persistence on a particular story caught the ire of President Richard Nixon.

Schorr appeared at the Newseum in conjunction with the exclusive "G-Men and Journalists" exhibit, which examines the sometimes cooperative, sometimes combative relationship between the press and the FBI.

In 1971, Schorr reported that while Nixon had promised federal funding to Catholic parochial schools, no such plan was in place. Schorr appeared on Nixon’s infamous "enemies list" after refusing to retract the story.

"[Nixon’s staff] tried to tell me I was wrong but didn’t manage to prove that," Schorr said.

Schorr’s actions also resulted in an FBI investigation of him launched by the White House. But since it was called a "background check," the White House unintentionally changed the scope of the investigation.

"One thing they didn’t understand at the White House was that the [phrase] ‘background check’ at the FBI was very special," he said. "You do a background check on somebody in mind to be appointed for a White House job."

Once word got out about the "background check," the Nixon administration knew it had to act quickly, Schorr explained. White House officials told the press they "were considering me for a job in the environmental field," he said.

During Nixon’s impeachment proceedings after Watergate, Schorr noted that one of the "abuses of presidential power" described was an "unwarranted FBI investigation of a correspondent."

"So there I am in the history of Watergate," he said.

Schorr also discussed his work with CBS broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow and talked about television news and Internet blogging. Schorr, 91, said the constant news cycle is what inspired him to take a role analyzing news for National Public Radio, where he has been a senior news analyst since 1985.

"People are overloaded with information," he said. "My job is to take the body of knowledge and say, ‘What does this mean?’"

"Inside Media," produced by the Newseum, is open to the public. Seating is on a space-available basis.

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